By Mike Bullis
The title of this blog may seem like a put-down. In this day and age when everyone is supposed to be positive and filled with belief in themselves, we’re taught that we can do anything. Just think it up and away you go. Whatever you believe you can do is possible.
Are you waiting for that dream job at which you will excel and enjoy every day?
Want to become a scientist? No problem. Want to invent the next million seller app? Just believe in yourself and it’s all possible.
Well, frankly, that’s utter nonsense. The truth is, we’re not all able to do anything we wish. “Wishing,” as the old saying goes, “doesn’t make it so.”
Each of us represents a set of aptitudes and skills and if we want to do something, and be successful at it, our desires need to be tempered by the reality of what we bring to the table–those skills, talents, aptitudes and knowledge pieces that will make it work.
Being a scientist, depending upon the field, requires meticulous attention to boring experiments that often go on for years and produce nothing exciting, reading thousands of papers to find that one idea that will make a difference in your thinking. Developing that next cool app requires that you become a code writer and then that you understand what the public wants, not what you want. It’s very hard work.
When I say that I’m not a very creative person, it’s not a putdown. It’s the conscious acknowledgement that I don’t come up with many new ideas. There’s nothing wrong with that. I leave the inventing to others. I’m an implementer. In other words, I can take the ideas that others come up with and do them. Somebody has to. Would I like to be Bill Gates or Warren Buffett? Sure I would, but I’m not them. I’m Mike Bullis.
And, would I like that dream job at which I excel and enjoy every day? Sure I would. But, in the meantime, eighty percent of my day is spent doing the boring and tedious work of managing a Center for Independent Living–budgets to read, expenses to control, employees to supervise, meetings to attend that often seem pointless and endless. The other twenty percent of my day is spent doing my passion, which is changing what it means to have a disability–advocating, motivating, writing and speaking. That twenty percent is enough. I love my job because I get to do the twenty percent. But, I’ve had plenty of jobs where I got to do far less than twenty percent expressing my passion, and that’s fine too. It put food on the table.
I do the eighty percent so I can do the twenty percent. The eighty percent is the daily drudgery of life that must be done so I can explore my passion in those twenty percent moments.
I get the impression from many people with disabilities that they have been handed a load of nonsense when it comes to dreams and goals. They’ve been told that they should fulfill their dreams and passions and everything will be wonderful. And, the worst part of it is that the people who are telling them this are lying through their teeth.
Very often when somebody tells a person with a disability to “follow your dream” they mean this, “I don’t have any idea what you can do with your disability. In fact, I don’t have the first clue what I would do if I were you because I’d be devastated.” So, they spout all this nonsense about following your dreams because they don’t believe you can do anything and sure hope you’ll come up with something. They want to be positive and so send you off on some dream exploration.
My advice is pretty old fashioned and simple. Figure out what you’re good at. It’s usually something you like well enough to do, even when it’s hard and you’re tired. In other words, figure out what you’re willing and able to do that matches your skills and abilities. What did you get good grades in in school? Did you do better than most people in some area? Explore that.
And, in the meantime, get a job, almost any job. Forget about your dream job and just learn the discipline of having to show up every day at a particular time and place and do work! Yes, just plain old work. It develops your work muscle, which is important. Along the way, you’ll discover your strengths and you’ll perhaps learn your passions. But, it starts with simple old fashioned work.
Work isn’t just something that was invented by employers to keep us down, although that might just be the result. Work is something that stretches us and helps us develop physical, mental and emotional discipline. Those are pretty important skills to have.
If, at first, you need to volunteer, do it! It may help you see what work life is all about. It may help you find what you’re good at. Whether you get paid isn’t important at first. Just getting in the workforce and seeing what is expected and how you measure up are the important skills you’ll gain. And, if you do begin contributing to the bottom line of the organization through your efforts, most employers will hire you. If they don’t, you have still gained the knowledge and work muscle that you’ll need for that next opportunity.
So, I won’t be going to work tomorrow as an inventor, and that’s just fine with me. But, when someone invents something really cool, I’ll be glad to use it. And that really makes me happy. I wish for you the knowledge of what you’re good at and, along the way, just maybe, you’ll find your passion.